tv [untitled] September 23, 2011 7:00pm-7:30pm PDT
[applause] >> thank you. good evening and welcome. i am cynthia foster, vice president of the league of women voters of san francisco. believe it is a nonpartisan political organization dedicated to the active and informed participation of all citizens in government. we never support or oppose candidates, but we do take stands on issues. for further information about candidates and election issues, this is the web site. the league wishes to remind you that if you are not registered to vote, please do so right away and urged others you know to register. the actual deadline to register to vote for the november 8 election is october 24, and if you have moved, you need to register again. we want to thank our co-sponsor for tonight's forum, the bar association of san francisco, and our media partner.
you will hear from the five candidates for san francisco district attorney. all will have a chance to present their views on issues affecting the city and to answer your questions and those of the committee of the bar association on issues. to submit questions for the candidate, look for a volunteer who will be collecting index cards you find on your table. we are privileged to have as our moderator tonight peter king. he is a professor of law at golden gate university school of law, former chief assistant san francisco public defender, was president of the bar association of san francisco in 1989, and also served as vice president of the state bar in california. he's an internationally known legal analyst and provides regular legal analysis on cbs
television and radio here in san francisco. he offered san francisco's handgun control ordinance and proposition 190, amending the california constitution & reforming the state commission on judicial performance. peter is a well known and expected -- respected leader in the community and a perfect person to moderate tonight's forum. it is my pleasure to introduce our moderator for this evening, peter keane. [applause] >> thank you very much, cynthia. it is a great pleasure for me to be here, and i thank the league and the bar association and the criminal trial lawyers association for inviting me to do this. i am a neutral moderator. i have not endorsed any candidate in regard to this race, and you will hear from the candidates who will have an opportunity to answer the questions which i have formulated. i want to thank tony and julie
for the hell they gave, along with other people in formulating the questions we have come up with. the questions in the long run are those that i have written and that i will put to each of the candidates. in regard to the ground rules, i would say each candidate will have two minutes to make an opening statement and then a closing statement. each candidate will have one minute to answer every question, and in addition to that, i have a number of intermittent questions, which are lightning round questions, that i will just throw in and ask for a yes or no answer, and then move on to the more fleshed out questions. the time keepers in the first row will hold up a yellow card to signify to the candidate that they have 30 seconds remaining, and they will hold up a red card when it is time to stop. we will be very fierce on the
time here. every aspect of this forum will be equally fair to all of the participating candidates. you have many important decisions to make on november 8. we hope tonight's forum will give you an opportunity to be heard. let's begin with opening statements from each of the candidates in alphabetical order. >> thank you. i am very honored to be here. as an example of some of the work i have been doing this past 22 years as a prosecutor, i would like to tell you a story. george will be was a sadist roaming the streets amongst us. sharon frazier was a prostitute with a 6-year-old daughter. george willoughby was evil incarnate. when sharon frazier got into his car, she had no idea that she was in the presence of a monster. after he raped her, sodomized her, and terrorized her, he took her to a tree and hired her by
her left and -- by her neck and ankle to the tree. he set her on fire, and she died hopping around on her right leg on fire. that night, her 6-year-old daughter became an orphan and was left with no one. sharon fraser's story is important because like the over 1000 unsolved murders in san francisco, i reopen that case, and with the use of dna evidence, the dna that he left on the road that night, solve the murder. that gave closure to sharon frazier's family. you will hear a lot throughout the campaign about our dna labs, the state it is in, which is a failing state, and our dap's inability to address it either as police chief or as d.a.. i wanted to give you this issue because in the 21st century, dna is a critical tool, essentially -- essential to our ability to
put the most dangerous and violent criminals behind bars and give closer to their families. every time we put a serial criminal, rapist, and murder behind bars, we are that much safer. as a dna expert, prosecutor for 22 years, and the leader of an elite trial unit, experience matters. i will bring my experience to my job and leave san francisco to a safer and protected city. >> thank you for inviting us and making this possible. i am the oldest one up here, but the newest member of the candidates for district attorney. i entered the race less than a month ago. the reason i entered was i was a district attorney for 20 years, but i have been a defense attorney for the last 16 years. i looked around and was encouraged by friends and colleagues to enter the race. i looked carefully and realize i had everything all of the
current candidates have to offer plus i am que native san franciscan. i bring a well-balanced approach to the administration of criminal justice, having been a prosecutor and a defense attorney for almost the same amount of time here plus, because of my background, my family lives here. i live here. my kids went to public schools. i have two grandchildren. one lives here, and one lives in the bay area. i think i bring to the district attorney's office in a unique opportunity to look at crimes from the perspective of the san franciscans, someone who knows and appreciates san francisco values. knowing these values and knowing how to prosecute and when to prosecute, simply because a case can be prosecuted does not mean it must be prosecuted. i think those of us who practice in san francisco and practice in other counties no distinct difference between the
prosecution of criminal defense in san francisco compared to other counties. i think most people will agree with me it can be much better. i would like to hear support. i would like to end my career at the high point, being san francisco's district attorney, as i began 30 years ago. >> thank you so much. first, i want to thank the for their support and creating the opportunity for this for -- forum. and the bar. without their help, my office would not be functioning as well as it is. i want to tell you about myself and my trajectory. i came to this country when i was 13. i emigrated from cuba. i grew up in a very important neighborhood. english was a second language. but eventually went to college and law school. i walked with the lapd for 20
years, walking some of the toughest neighborhoods and working in community is very similar to the ones where i was raised. i taught ethics reform in the wake of the and -- i oversaw ethics reform in the wake of a major police scandal. was able to effectively reduce crime in what i thought was one of the most toxic, racist environments in the country. our work and creating an lgbt community forum for the first time in the city. as the chief of police in san francisco, i was able to bring homicide rates down to 1860 levels. there were 97 homicides in the city. i came in the middle of 2009. there were 20 homicides this year. we were able to bring it to 50% -- to over 50% from being down
23% and here we have the highest referral rid of cases in six years. as your d.a., i am committed to working closely to dealing with violent crime. we have prosecuted eight out of nine homicide cases this year. i have also worked to create neighborhood courts to bring low-level offenses out of the courtroom, and drug courts. >> i want to start by thanking the lead and bar and for all of you for coming tonight. your story running for this return because our criminal justice system is completely broken. we spent so much on our personnel have practically bankrupt in the state. seven out of 10 people who come out of prison return within three years. we need to completely overhaul this broken system. in order to do that, we need
someone who knows how to reform the system to make it more efficient and more fair. i started my career at walden house adolescent facility counseling kids and helping them turn their lives around. i worked at the national council environmental case where i helped write the book during the clinton administration of the clinton justice department on alternatives to incarceration. i then graduated from stanford law school and got a fellowship to work and legal services for children where are provided free legal services to low-income kids in san francisco and went on to work at the hayward burns institute for juvenile justice, fairness, and equity. at the mayor's office of criminal justice and on the police commission, i helped bring national best practices to san francisco law enforcement, and it brought it all together at the berkeley center for criminal justice, which i found it with the mission of bringing law enforcement and community together to build collaboration around pragmatic criminal-
justice reform. that is what my entire career has been about, and that is what this entire campaign is about. however i going to do that? by focusing on what works. we know keeping kids out of the adult justice system is the best thing we can do to keep us safer. i will reform the juvenile justice system and the juvenile unit in the d a's office. we know that helping them get jobs is the key to helping the reenter society safely. i have a track record of bringing it together from all sides to do that. we talked about what works. we have to talk about what does not work. the death penalty does not work. i will not seek it under any circumstances. thank you. >> thank you. is this on? >> yes. >> i received my legal training in san francisco. i am graduate about uc hastings
in 1992. i have been a deputy public defender in orange county. i am the current commissioner to the state law advisory commission. we identify for the public highly proficient criminal law attorneys. it is a mandate under california will support 9.35 in which we identified attorneys that practice in criminal law falls through the state, and it is a certification program. i moved here in april. i brought my wife and two kids here. the reason why -- we have 1000 unsolved murders. she said, the criminal justice system is in dire need of reform, and it is because of the investigative process. we are not using modern tools to
support our investigation of crime. two very effective tools must be used by law enforcement -- the high definition video camera and dna. we need to have a crime lab that is independent. we need real solutions to the problems that we are facing. and we should be focused on truth and the fairness of the system. i am hoping that in this debate, we can talk about the problems we have and bring real solutions. once we identify these solutions, we need to the employment them by de- politicizing the system -- we need to implement them. thank you. >> thank you very much. the questions i will not ask in a rotating order alphabetically. remember, you have one minute for your answer. the question is -- what is your
position on reporting to immigration authorities only people convicted of violent or serious felonies, not reporting those arrested, awaiting trial, and not reporting victims? why do you think it is desirable or not desirable? >> i was born in iran to iranian parents. we came to san francisco when i was just four years old. my passport says "born in iran." i have gone through virtually every high security checkpoint you can imagine. i am extremely sensitive to being targeted based on immigration status, and i am committed to making sure san francisco is a sanctuary city where that will not occur. let me say that i am a strong proponent of community policing, and i believe that in order to generate the kind of information we need from community policing, there cannot be a chilling effect on those who are not from this country. i am not in support upper
deporting people based on their immigration status. >> your sort practicing attorney both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. i know the rest is not indicative of what will happen later on. i supported supervisor campos and his resolution making san francisco continue to be a sanctuary city and telling our elected officials not to cooperate with federal authorities who would turn that around. so strongly opposed to turning over information of individuals who have been arrested to the federal immigration office. they are convicted of a felony, it is another matter. they have been through the criminal justice system and we can look at it in that perspective, but i strongly oppose anything that would keep the city from remaining sanctuaries city it has come to be known as pure drama i oppose
secure communities. -- come to be known as. >> i oppose secure communities. i took a very strong stand against the policies of the local sheriff in arizona where immigrants were being scapegoating and arrested, held for hours, and then deported without committing a crime. when i came to sentences, i continued that policy. i created a policy with the help of other community members to insure that when people were being stopped and did not have a driver's license because they were immigrants, that the car would not be impounded if they could find someone with a driver's license. i have worked with staff in arizona, utah, georgia, and most recently alabama to overturn legislation that was clearly and plainly designed to discriminate against our immigrant community.
>> i have said strongly and repeatedly that i am against secure communities, that we should attempt to opt out, following the lead of states like new york and massachusetts and illinois. i believe i was the only candidate to come out in the debate and say that clearly. the sheriff, who i'm proud to say has endorsed me, stuck his neck out and said that san francisco should opt out of secure communities, but he was involved in doing that. the rest of the law enforcement community was not behind him. so i want to say san francisco is unified in law enforcement in doing the right thing and say less secure communities is wrong. mr. violence victims who have reported crimes to the police and were arrested -- it was later cleared of the arrests, but they are still going through deportation proceedings. the arrest triggers the reporting. the rest should never trigger the reporting period >> san
francisco is a great city because of its diversity. we should be a hub for social and economic activity, education, and we should be a beacon for liberty, freedom. the immigrants' story is an honorable one. if you really think about it, we all came from somewhere on earth. if you look at the tree of humanity, it came right out of africa and went like this. why do people come here? they come here for liberty but also because of their present condition. they can see an economic system, and they see the their people are suffering, their family are suffering. but regarding reporting, there is a 10th amendment. everyone has a role and mission.
in law enforcement locally, we should concentrate on public safety and not immigration enforcement. >> historically, many false convictions of innocent people occur through use of questionable police identification procedures such as one person shows up near the scene and six-person for the spreads by an investigating officer who believes the guilty person is in the photographs. would you agree to a policy that eyewitness identification in court be allowed only if prior identification procedure involved in a multiple-person line of where individuals were shown one at a time by someone who was not the investigating officer? >> i think i would -- i know exactly what you're talking about. i have been subject to those from both sides of the courtroom as a prosecutor and defense attorney. it certainly is better to have individual identification.
i do not know if i would tell the police department how to conduct their business, but what i could do as district attorney is indicate to them how it will be done. and if it is not done a certain way, we would not use it. in an indirect way, i would be directing them to do it the right way, and based on my experience and background, i would be well positioned to do that. i have a great deal of respect by police officers. i came in this race late and was not interviewed by the police department and did not get their endorsement. but i spoke with them, and the head of the police department said he had known me for 20 years, and i could tell anyone was listening depth he thinks -- listening that i would be a great deal -- da. working together, we can make sure it is done the right way. >> eyewitness identification is inherently -- and highly problematic. for years, i have been working
with the law enforcement side to come up with better systems. it has nothing to do with the capabilities of the officers or even attend your the reality is we know there is a great deal of science today the talks about the problems of eyewitness identification. i am a strong supporter that we need to continue to reform the process and the way we utilize eyewitness identification. i can tell you that from my point of view anyway i like to proceed in cases is to have independent corroboration any time we have eyewitness identification. it is inherently faulty, and we should not solely depend on eyewitness identifications. >> study after study has shown that eyewitness identification can be very problematic. the california commission on the fair administration of justice put together comprehensive recommendations for what should be done in california. i strongly support those recommendations and think those are the recommendations that we should follow in san francisco,
and that is what i will support as district attorney. >> i do not think the district attorney should be trying to be keeping out evidence from the court room just because of the conduct of the police. that is an admissibility issue that should be decided by the judge. but the eyewitness is a terrible witness. it has been proven time and time again. we have a study that shows 88% of women that have been raped -- imagine how close of a contact that is -- and yet, they get the wrong person. so we have to modernize investigative unit again. dna is very important. it is what is needed here in our public area, a dense area like san francisco, we need to provide the people with the same type of tools. that is the privilege people
have and the government has, which is a camera. some type of surveillance system. we have to change the way we investigate. >> thank you. i think this question goes to a heart of why experience matters. i have been a prosecutor for 22 years. during that time, i have tried a variety of cases from misdemeanors to murder. my conviction rate is 95%. i can tell you that corroboration is key. it -- a case must be more than just eyewitness testimony because it is unreliable in many regards, and as many issues that the jury does look at, such as whether it is a cross-racial it -- id. it is essential to shift our focus to corroboration, to demand corroboration, and supplement what we do with evidence such as dna, which really is the tool of the future and why our crime lab and current response is so critical and why the multi-disciplinary
team approach i have bought -- brought to alameda county as we committed to bringing here where we bring law enforcement, victim witness advocates, and prosecutors all at the table at the same time to look at issues as critical as corroboration with the dna. >> the next question is one of those lightning round questions i told you i have, which calls for a yes or no answer. to do this, rather than alphabetically, i am just going to go in reverse order for the last question. would you agree to a blanket policy that san francisco not use the death penalty under any circumstances, yes or no? >> i am 100% opposed to the death penalty. >> would you agree to a blanket policy against using it? >> as i said, i am 100% against the death penalty. >> yes. >> yes. >> yes. >> going back to our offered medical questions, what are your
views on the levels, if any, of wrongdoing or dishonesty by members of the san francisco police department, and how did you plan on dealing with your obligations under brady versus maryland, particularly where it may appear the police department is hiding officer misconduct history? >> i am glad that you brought the question. i am actually the one who brought the brady issue into this jurisdiction. when i came here, i realized that the county did not have a written brady policy. i actually worked in the county of l.a. and the city of l.a. to create a great policy there are approximately 10 years ago. when i realized we did not have a brady policy, we immediately started to work with the district attorney and the police officer association to create a great policy for the police department. we took a look back 30 years to police behavior, an unprecedented step in order to
make sure that we were good. when i became district attorney, the first thing i did through the reorganization was create a unit that not only holds ourself accountable, the police department, to make sure that any brady issue comes to our attention and is handled appropriately. >> officer misconduct really strikes at the heart of building trust between law enforcement and the community, which is absolutely essential to keeping us safer. it is very important that we take that very seriously. unfortunately, in the current office, we have a situation where the former police chief has become the district attorney, which is simply a walking conflict of interest. that has never happened before not only in the history of san francisco, but in the history of our country. it is not george's fault. anyone in that position would have conflicts of interest. but the problem that did happen is we have allegations of officers doing illegal searches
and then lying about it. officers are innocent until proven guilty, but george was chief at the time, and he cannot fairly investigate this case is. he has not recused himself. he does not have a conflict of interest policy. i will have a strong conflict of interest policy and surely allocate conflicts of interest. >> the reason that police officers can come and live is again the way we asked them to investigate. we asked them to go into an investigation and interact with the criminal element and come back and tell us exactly what occurred. besides the undercover police officer, there is no need for that. if you go out, use modern technology. camera up. mic up. bring us back the truth. we can stop this continual
process of verbalizing and lying. we do not need that. you hear about 15 hours of work and waiting three or four hours for a terminal. if you camera up, i do not need you to write anything. i will see it. with regard to brady material, which should be able to see everything. only privilege and confidential material needs to be protected. >> this goes to the heart of why we need a lead to a prosecutor as our next d.a. your sword rather have the endorsement of officers for justice. it is equally important if not vital that the independent of one another so that you can be assured in every step, with the issue is police misconduct or a scandal rocking our dna lab, that there is transparency and accountability in everything that the police and da do together. that is the very cornerst